Cordillera de Talamanca
25 January 2016
If one bird could be said to be synonymous with a birder's view of Costa Rica, and the species most sought after, it would doubtless be the Resplendent Quetzal Pharomachrus mocinno.
We were fortunate to encounter at least three individuals, a single female and a mated pair.
Not only did we locate the birds we were able to observe them for about a half hour. The male especially, moved around and treated us to a tremendous display; if we lost it for a moment it reappeared in all its glory.
We then realized that the female was busy at a nest hole and we quietly departed. We had no desire to disturb a breeding pair.
It was a magical encounter with a bird that is almost mystical in the minds of many. It was revered by the ancient Mayans and its plumes were reserved for the robes of only those of high rank. It was considered a transgression punishable by death to kill a quetzal, so the bird was captured, the tail feathers were removed and it was released.
There is more than a little irony in the fact that the bird is the national symbol of Guatemala and appears on its flag, but has virtually been extirpated in that country - somewhat akin perhaps to the bear on the state flag of Calfornia, where nary a bear exists any more. As humans we can never be accused of not doing strange things.